How to (tactfully) inform friends and family they’re not invited to your wedding

wedding invitation

When it comes to planning a wedding, culling the guest list is one of the most difficult jobs for the bride and groom.

Who to invite? Who not to invite? Do you invite kids or that old high-school friend from a decade ago? Do you invite your brother’s soon-to-be ex-girlfriend?

What about that distant cousin who invited us to her wedding?

Unfortunately, decisions made during this time can lead to family fights and even life-long resentments by guests who, well, never ended up being guests.

The trick is to be tactful about it.

Of course, it won’t help sending a ‘Don’t Save the Date’ card, as some less-than-tactful couples apparently do.

A recent question to’s Dear Prudence section asks:

Dear Prudence. Recently I received two separate announcements letting me know that I’m not invited to the wedding of a friend. Both of these came out of the blue; I had not precipitated them by asking if I was going to get an invitation. Apparently, it’s a trend for brides and grooms to tell people who didn’t make the cut that they aren’t going to witness the special day. (Google “How to tell someone you’re not inviting them to your wedding.”) I have no idea how to respond. It seems churlish to say that I’m relieved, but it’s also awkward to admit my feelings were hurt. Please help.

-A Perplexed Nonwedding Guest

Yikes. Now, that’s awkward. I think I’d be so embarrassed for both of us and not even respond.

At first, it seems just plain old cruel (rather than super-efficient, as was probably the couple’s innocent intent) to send someone a Don’t-Save-the-Date card but, if you think it through, it may not be as gauche or nasty as it seems.

After all, it does ensure the person who thinks they will be invited knows full-well that they won’t be and allows them to, well, not save the date or buy clothing, book flights and accommodation or a gift etc.

Thankfully, there are a few far more tactful ways to inform friends, family and acquaintances that they’re not invited to your wedding and, though, honesty is generally the best policy, sometimes a little diplomacy is a far better and less hurtful option, and that’s just as important.

Remember, that it may just be a simple line through a name to you and your partner but to the crossee, especially if they’re close enough to think they’d be invited, a non-invite could be considered a snub they’ll find it difficult to recover from.

Blame the budget

Explain to your guests that you’d love to have invited them to your big day but simply cannot afford to do so. It’s a little bit awkward but, if you feel really bad about it and if you’re holding the ceremony at another location, you could ask them to join you for the ceremony. Of course, don’t be surprised if they politely decline.

Say you’re keeping things as intimate as possible

Big weddings are fine (and can be lots of fun) but having hundreds of guests, or even dozens, at your wedding is not everyone’s cup of tea. Some couples genuinely want to keep things as small and intimate as possible, even those who can afford to invite everyone they know and love. Weddings are incredibly intimate events that expose you and your partner, your feelings, your emotions and your family and, frankly, it’s not something everyone wants to share with people who aren’t in their very inner circle.

Our venue isn’t big enough

Most venues simply cannot cater for the amount of people we’d like to invite and, if your venue is small enough, it could legitimately be reason enough for having to keep your guest list quite tight. If that reason needs a little padding out, you could extend it by saying that though you’d love to invite more people, not only is the space limited, but your side of the list is already full.

Tell them the real reason they’re not invited

Though your aim is avoid hurting anyone when not inviting them, the fact is that some behaviour or incidents are bad or painful enough that you simply do not want a person at your wedding. In that case, tell but as gently as you see fit in the situation.

If it’s something that was so painful to you that you don’t want them there, chances are they already know about it and won’t be surprised at not being invited. If, however, they don’t know about your feelings towards them, well, the silver lining may be that you’ll have the opportunity to put your case forward and, maybe, even clear up something that wasn’t quite what you thought it was.

Whatever method you choose , try not to tell your friend/family member via a text or email or social media – and don’t let them find out from someone else either, if you can manage it.

Simply grit your teeth, put on your bravest face and tell them on the phone or face to face.

Explain to them how very much they mean to you and the reason you can’t invite them. After all, most people understand, especially if it’s a financial decision.

The fact is, if we all had unlimited budgets, we’d invite everyone we know and love, but the harsh reality is that most of us simply cannot.

How did you break it to members of your friends and family that they’re not invited to your wedding? What were the consequences? Were there any?

Related link: Is it ok to invite people to your hen’s/buck’s night but not to the wedding?

wedding invitation

wedding invitation

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